If you love hiking and are headed to Fairbanks, Alaska, you're in luck. With a reputation as the gateway to the arctic, Fairbanks is the start point of a million and one adventures. Many of the hiking opportunities fall within the city limits. Trails around historic sites like Creamer's Field are worth a few hours of anyone's time, as is a hike down the Chena Riverwalk, a stroll through the boreal forest at Birch Hill Recreation Area, or a meander around Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary. Venture just a little outside the city and even greater pleasures await you. Winding waterways, amazing wildlife, jaw-dropping scenery, and vast swathes of unexplored territory - if this sounds your kind of thing, then you're not going to be disappointed. Fill up your water bottle, strap on a backpack, and prepare for some blisters as we guide you through everything you need to know about hiking in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Angel Rocks Trail
According to alltrails.com, Angel Rocks Trail is one of the best hikes in Fairbanks. It's a moderately trafficked, moderately challenging 5.8-kilometer loop located just a short drive from downtown. The trail is well maintained and marked. It's also, understandably enough, incredibly popular - visit during the week if you want to beat the crowds. If you have a dog, feel free to bring them along for the walk (although be sure to keep them leashed to avoid incurring any dirty looks). There's a lot of photo opportunities along the way, so be sure to bring a camera. Although there's no bad time of the year to visit, the views are particularly spectacular in fall.
Butte Creek Trail
If wildlife spotting gets you excited, be sure to include Butte Creek Trail on your itinerary. The trail, which runs from Susitna River to Snodgrass Lake, is heaving with caribou, moose, and bears. Thanks to its location, it's also a popular spot for fly fisherman - although as a rule, they tend to be friendlier than the grizzlies.
Boreal Forest and Seasonal Wetland Trail
At just 2.1 miles long, the Boreal Forest and Seasonal Wetland Trail is a great choice for time-poor visitors who want to stretch their legs while enjoying some clean air, great views, and plenty of camera-worthy moments. Suitable for all ages and skill levels, the trail makes a fun destination no matter what the weather or time of year (although bear in mind that it tends to get very wet in spring).
The Chena Riverwalk
In the mood for something relaxing? Something you won't even have to leave the city limits to enjoy? Then consider a stroll down the Chena Riverwalk. A 3.5 miles long, it's by no means the longest or most challenging hike you'll come across in the area. It is, however, one of the best. Stretching from Pioneer Park to Airport Way, it manages to pack in an incredible number of sights and experiences along the way. Pass through historic plazas, picturesque parks, and enjoy the gorgeous views over the river. As short, scenic hikes go, it's hard to beat.
Venture around 20 miles outside of Fairbanks and you'll find yourself at Murphy Dome, an incredibly popular recreation site that also happens to be one of the best places to observe the northern lights in winter. In summer, the joys of hiking and berry picking replace the delights of star gazing to some extent, but it's still a popular place to head at dusk to enjoy the sunset.
Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge
Trip Advisor reviewers rank the Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge as one of the best outdoor attractions in Fairbanks. It's not hard to see the appeal. With miles of multi-use trails that can be traversed spring, summer, fall, and winter, not to mention an amazing array of flora and fauna, it's a nature lover's dream. In winter, the trails are optimized for cross country skiing and skijoring, making it a truly all-year-round destination. But don't just take our word for it. A quick glance at the reviews of previous visitors will be more than sufficient to convince you of the refuge's merits. "If you like birds, go see them!! Easy access and excellent grounds. A lot of interesting history about the former dairy," says one visitor, with another adding "Living in Fairbanks my husband and I visit Creamers field at least twice a week through the summer. There are always new birds flying in and many stay the whole summer. The spring (mid-April) when the snow is finally beginning to melt the field, which is next to College Road, is partially plowed and seed spread to attract many species of birds who are stopping over on their way north. It is a wonderful place to hear the sounds of spring! A must-see."
Wickersham Dome Trail
For hiking enthusiasts, The White Mountains National Recreation Area is a slice of heaven. Over 200 miles of trails snake across its million-acre wilderness, providing endless thrills for nature lovers and walkers. Even better, it's set less than 40 miles from Fairbanks, making accessibility an absolute breeze. Of all the trails that litter the area, one of the most popular is Wickersham Dome Trail. Offering awe-inspiring, uninterrupted views, multiple vantage points, and scenic, varied terrain, it's a fabulous place to experience some of the raw beauty that defines the region. If you come in summer, be sure to pack some containers: the berry picking opportunities are legendary.
James Dalton Highway
The James Dalton Highway is unique. And we dont mean that in a figurative sense. As the one and only road to travel through North Alaska, it's an incredibly popular place to hike and camp beside. Hundreds of miles of wilderness stretch out before you on either side. While it's by no means the easiest of hikes, the wildlife spotting opportunities (expect to see moose, caribou, musk ox, and more besides) and the panoramic views make it worth the effort. If you decide to turn your hike into a multi-day adventure, you'll find plenty of lodging options along the way. Finding anything worth eating, on the other hand, can be a challenge: play it safe and bring enough with you for how ever far you plan to hike.
Table Top Mountain Trail
Recommend by alaska.org as one of the most scenic drives in the interior, Table Top Mountain Trail is a must for anyone who enjoys a good view as much as they enjoy a good walk. Pass through spruce forests, walk beside snaking rivers, and enjoy the panoramic views over the White Mountains. Simply put, it's a must-do.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson